Asche & Spencer

Monster's Ball

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

In developing a musical concept for his first feature film, director Marc Forster opted for an approach that could be described (after its most visible practitioner) as the Thomas Newman aesthetic. This school of thought maintains that film music can enhance drama, add texture, and underline meaning, but it should never, ever tell the audience how to feel. The score for Monster's Ball, composed by the ambient band Asche and Spencer, adheres to that philosophy by making extremely sparing use of melody. Through much of the movie, music slides by mysteriously without drawing much attention to itself. The instrumentation is sparse -- primarily electric guitar, keyboard, bass, and marimba -- and geographically ambiguous. The score's three composers (Thad Spencer, Chris Beatty, and Richard Werbowenko) could have attempted to establish the film's Southern small-town setting by loading up on pedal steel. (That task is left to country & western pop songs by the Jayhawks, Red Meat, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.) Or they could have emphasized the film's tragic events with dramatic, swelling strings. Instead, Asche and Spencer focus strictly on the muddier emotional journey of the narrative. When Billy Bob Thornton's character mourns the suicide of his son, the score is just as withdrawn and distant as the actor's performance. The music doesn't grieve, it doesn't tug at heartstrings. The guitar strokes are soft and reflective, but impassive -- the piece could legitimately be seen as either bleak or hopeful. Only in the final scene, as the story reaches resolution, does the ethereal noodling expand gradually and gracefully into melody. The game is over and the storytellers finally tip their emotional hand. But gently and thoughtfully; not so much manipulating as reflecting the emotions of the audience.

blue highlight denotes track pick